Over time, Wheel of Fortune has introduced and occasionally retired various gameplay elements.

Current ElementsEdit

The current game structure is as follows:

$1,000 Toss-Up
Contestant interviews
$2,000 Toss-Up
Round 1
commercial break
Round 2 (Mystery)
commercial break
Round 3 (Express, Prize Puzzle)
commercial break
Triple Toss-Up
Round 4 (plus extra rounds if time permits)
commercial break
Bonus Round
Promotional plug
Post-game chat

Until shopping was removed from nighttime in October 1987 and daytime in mid-1989, commercial breaks could (and frequently did) occur mid-round.


Debuted: August 28, 1974

Introduced on the first Edd Byrnes pilot, Bankrupt is a black wedge on the Wheel that takes away the player's score for that round when landing on it (score from previous rounds is not affected), and also costs the player their turn. Originally, the wedge had white outlines; these were removed sometime between January 6 and mid-October 1975.

There was originally one Bankrupt in Round 1 and two for each round thereafter, but in 1987 this was changed to add the second Bankrupt in Round 3; from 1997-2005, in the event that a round began as a Speed-Up, the second Bankrupt was removed along with any remaining cardboard. From 2007-09, the second Bankrupt and remaining cardboard (except the Wild Card from 2006-2008) were always removed after Round 3 but, since the beginning of Season 27, both Bankrupts are present throughout the game, with a second one permanently replacing the purple $600 next to the top dollar value.

Originally, the orange-yellow (changed to red in Season 24) $300 was replaced by a second Bankrupt for Rounds 2+ from Seasons 14-19 (excluding the rest of the round where the $10,000 Wedge is picked up). The second Bankrupt in Round 3 moved to the purple $600 next to top dollar in Season 20, which then moved to the yellow $300 in Season 25 (purple $600 next to top dollar in Season 26) for use in Rounds 2 and 3 only.

The wedge's symbolic slide whistle was added sometime between June 7, 1976 and January 18, 1978 (one recollection claims it was added in 1977), and changed to the current sound on July 17, 1989. Beginning in the late 1980s, the slide whistle sound was not heard if the host hit it on the Final Spin.

For a brief period beginning on September 16, 1996, the second Bankrupt was "off model", using the Clarendon font with all letters the same size. This was fixed sometime between September 26 and October 2.

The single-round record for Bankrupt hits is believed to be six, occurring on March 27, 1979 (Round 2); October 11, 1994 (Round 3); December 30, 2008 (Round 3, one from the Mystery Wedge); October 4, 2011 (Round 2); November 28, 2013 (Round 3); and March 18, 2015 (Round 2).

Cash Wedges (Active)Edit

Debuted: see below


Wedges with a dollar amount on them, and essentially the "meat" of the show. A correct letter call credits that amount multiplied by how many times the called letter is in the puzzle.

The minimum amount was $0 in the Shopper's Bazaar pilot and $25 in the 1974 pilots, which was quickly increased to $100 sometime in 1975 (before July 15) followed by $150 (1985-96), $250 (1996-99), $300 (1999-2014), and $500 (2014-). $50 was the minimum from July-September 1989 on the daytime show.

On the daytime show, the top amounts were originally $450/$500/$500/$1,000/$1,000 on Bazaar and $350/$500/$750/$1,000 in 1974. When the series debuted, the top amounts became $500 in Round 1 and $1,000 in Round 3 (it is believed, but not certain, that $750 was the top value in Round 2), which were altered to $500/$1,000/$1,000 by July 15, 1975 and $500/$1,000/$1,500 by late January 1976. Sometime between September 5 and November 13, 1979, it was altered for the remainder of the original NBC run to $750/$1,000/$2,000; when it moved to CBS in July 1989, the amounts were lowered to $500/$500/$1,000/$1,250, although for some episodes after Wheel returned to NBC in 1991 the format was $500/$1,000/$1,250 due to time constraints.

Nighttime top values were originally $750/$1,000/$5,000 on the premiere, with Round 1 quickly increased to $1,000 after at least five episodes (likely on the second taping day). When the show began playing for cash in October 1987, the sequence went $1,000/$2,500/$3,500/$5,000; in 2000, the configuration changed to its current $2,500/$3,500/$3,500/$5,000.

Between 1987 and about 1990, if time permitted, some games played Rounds 3 and 4 in the same segment (both with $3,500 as the top value and still introducing the Round 4 Prize) and introduced $5,000 in Round 5. Conversely, some road shows in the mid-1990s played only one round in the first segment, with Round 2 (in its own segment) introducing $3,500, Round 3 introducing $5,000, and no second Wheel prize. This pacing was also used on 1990s episodes during and preceding sweepstakes, to allocate time for Pat to explain them. It also led to two games in September 1997 where, due to time constraints, $3,500 was top dollar for Rounds 2 and 3; one of these games also had Round 3 begin as a Speed-Up, also meaning that the Jackpot was not used.

During the Cash and Splash/Cruise and Cash Splash Sweepstakes in Season 7, Round 2 had both $2,500 and $3,500 (although only $3,500 was shown on-camera when Pat announced the two spaces being on the Wheel in said round). The former was on the purple $150 near Lose A Turn.

The current Wheel values are $500, $550, $600, $650, $700, $800, $900, $1,000 (through the Mystery and Express Wedges), $2,500, $3,500, and $5,000.

During the weeks of October 15 and 22 plus November 5 and 12, 2007, the $2,500 space was double-sized, extending counterclockwise over the purple $600. It had a Sony Card logo on it for the first week, Dawn for the second, Febreze for the third, and Maxwell House for the fourth. This was likely in honor of the show's 25th Anniversary.

For the week of April 28, 2014, a $6,000 wedge replaced $5,000 in Rounds 4+. The $6,000 wedge had "WHEEL $6000" in two rows written horizontally on the top and colored dots on the rest, similar to the 25 Wedge, meaning the maximum Speed-Up value for that week was $7,000.

$650 likely holds the record for longest time between appearances, not counting rug and turntable layouts: prior to its first nighttime appearance in Season 30, it had not been used in gameplay since 1979 (or 1998, if Wheel 2000 is counted).

From September 21, 2015 to April 1, 2019 (barring the week of October 5, 2015), the only non-top-dollar cash wedge that changed values as rounds progressed was the yellow wedge between green $500 and red $700, the yellow $600 increased to $900 in Round 3 only and back to $600 in Round 4. On April 1, 2019, it was increased to $900 for the whole game save for the week of April 8.

Until the late 2000s, contestants who accidentally called a vowel after spinning lost their turn. Since at least Season 28, the vowel is now disregarded, and the contestant is prompted for a consonant.

For more information, see Wheel configurations.

Crossword RoundEdit

Debuted: June 6, 2016
For the final week of Season 33, the show introduced a new feature unofficially called the Crossword Round. In this round, the puzzle board displays three to five interlocking words, one or two of which are displayed vertically, and all of which are connected by a usually unique clue on the category strip (for instance, the first such round featured the words LOBSTER ROSE BLUSHING with the clue "Seeing Red"). In a first, the show solicited viewer feedback on its own website and social media to determine how frequently the round should appear each week. The feature became official on the Season 34 premiere. They typically occur three times in one week, although some taping sessions have deviated from this (including at least one instance where only two were used in a week due to one being thrown out, and the first Secret Santa Week of Season 35, the only week to date which used four).

Many Crossword Rounds are similar to Fill In the Blank in that the clue is the preceding or following word with a blank, and all of the words in the puzzle can be used to fill in that blank. So far, two Crossword Rounds have used an existing category as a clue.

When solving the puzzle, the contestant is allowed to say the words in any order, so long as all of the words in the crossword are said without adding or subtracting anything.

While new to the American version, a similar round was previously used on the Spanish and German adaptations. It also bears some resemblance to the Wheel of Fortune Crossword electronic game from Tiger Electronics, and several fans have compared the round to the game show The Cross-Wits.

Express WedgeEdit

Debuted: September 16, 2013

Placed on the red $700 in Round 3, the Express offers a "face value" of $1,000; if a contestant lands on it and calls a correct letter, they may either take another regular turn or risk their current earnings to "hop aboard the Express" by continuing to call correct letters, earning $1,000 per consonant. The player may also buy vowels, which still cost $250. Unlike flipping the Mystery Wedge hiding a prize, the contestant does not forfeit his/her earnings to hop onboard the Express.

The player remains on the Express until they solve the puzzle or lose their turn, the latter of which also acts as a Bankrupt (and plays the slide whistle). Should a player go Bankrupt on Express, the wedge is still kept in play, thus allowing the possibility of more than one Express run in a game.

A train horn plays when the wedge is landed on. The wedge is animated and elevated similarly to Free Play.

If the Express is played, the shot of that player shrinks down to a square window insert with a border matching the player's podium color in the bottom-right corner with the puzzle board on the rest of the screen (similar to the Bonus Round). The player's current score is displayed below the window (using the same text graphic used for the Jackpot amount in Season 30) and always scrolls upwards (even when they buy vowels), and the logo-bug on the category strip is replaced with an "EXPRESS" graphic identical to the one on the wedge. Starting in Season 32, a music bed plays during Express runs.

Interestingly, the show appears to have two Express wedges: the normal electronic one, and a cardboard one presumably used for rehearsals. The cardboard wedge uses a different font for "EXPRESS" and "$1000", with black lines behind "EXPRESS" and "$1000" written horizontally with a comma.

Free PlayEdit

Debuted: September 14, 2009

Simultaneously replacing the Free Spin token and the yellow $400 between Lose A Turn and Bankrupt, Free Play allows contestants to call a letter, call a free vowel, or solve the puzzle right away, all without penalty. Aside from this, Free Play acts as a $500 wedge: correct consonants are worth $500 each, and $500 was added to the Jackpot in Seasons 27-30 regardless of whether the player chose to call a consonant or vowel. Presumably, $500 would have also been added to the Jackpot if the player solved the puzzle incorrectly, although this never happened in the Jackpot round.

Contestants are generally encouraged to call vowels on Free Play if any remain. Throughout Seasons 27-28, if a contestant hit Free Play with most of the puzzle revealed, Pat would typically remind them that they can attempt to solve the puzzle with no penalty for an incorrect answer. Likely because only one contestant ever took his advice during that period, Pat generally stopped doing this in Season 29 save for one occasion (May 10, 2012), after which the contestant solved incorrectly while on the wedge.

Despite its "face" value, Final Spins that land on Free Play are edited out.

Gift TagEdit

Debuted: March 20, 2000


The Gift Tag offers $1,000 towards a company's products, plus $500 per consonant beginning in Season 30. Originally located on the red $900, it moved to $700 in Season 20. A second one was added on the pink $300 in Season 22, and a third over the yellow $400 near Lose A Turn (where Free Play is now) in Season 23.

While the third was removed at the start of Season 24, the debut of the Wild Card over $700 on October 23, 2006 caused that tag to relocate to the yellow $400 near Lose A Turn (where Free Play is now). That tag was removed sometime between then and November 2, leaving only the one over the pink $300 (increased to $500 in Season 30). During the NBA Week of February 4, 2013, a second tag was added on the purple $500 on which the Prize normally resides, thus causing the Prize to move to $650 for that week only. The Gift Tag was moved to the purple $500 that used to be $550 in Season 31.

Most Gift Tags are white ovals with the company's logo, although some have had unique shapes. A notable deviation was the first week of Season 21, where the Gift Tag was $1,000 cash in then-newly redesigned $20 bills and the tag itself used the shape of said bill. On January 7 and 9, 2014, the tag was still the usual oval shape, but for the only known time, it was aligned vertically instead of horizontally.

The Gift Tag began awarding $500 per consonant at the beginning of Season 30.

Lose A TurnEdit

Debuted: September 1973

Present since the Shopper's Bazaar pilot, Lose A Turn simply makes the contestant lose his or her turn, but unlike Bankrupt does not remove money or prizes. When the show debuted, a second wedge was added in Round 3; this was removed by November 3, 1975.

For Bazaar, Lose A Turn was white-on-black, a color scheme famously associated with Bankrupt. Beginning in 1974, the wedge was yellow with white outlines around the lettering and the space itself; by mid-October 1975 the outlines were removed, and on September 16, 1996 the wedge adopted its current appearance (a very light shade of yellow, nearly white). Around January 2003, the wedge changed to its current Clarendon font. For a brief period after the font change, the "LOSE" text was extremely close to the Wheel's rim; this was fixed by February.

Million-Dollar WedgeEdit

Debuted: September 8, 2008

A special wedge on the pink $500 (orange $800 before Season 31) which offers a chance at $1,000,000 in the Bonus Round; it has a shiny, green, one-peg-wide "ONE MILLION" in the middle, with one-peg-wide Bankrupts on either side. The contestant must hit the wedge, call a correct letter, and solve that round's puzzle without losing it to Bankrupt. If s/he then wins the game without hitting Bankrupt, the $100,000 envelope on the Bonus Wheel is replaced by the $1,000,000 envelope.

The reverse of the wedge has "ONE MILLION DOLLARS" in curved, green text surrounding a dollar sign. An identical design was originally present on the $1,000,000 envelope, which changed in Season 27 to a plain-text envelope with "ONE" in smaller letters and "MILLION" in much larger letters.

Since its inception, the $1,000,000 bonus envelope has been hit eight times:

  • October 14, 2008 (contestant Michelle Loewenstein won it by solving LEAKY FAUCET)
  • May 30, 2013 (contestant Autumn Erhard won it by solving TOUGH WORKOUT; episode was originally scheduled for the 31st)
  • September 17, 2014 (contestant Sarah Manchester won it by solving LOUD LAUGHTER)
  • April 2, 2015 (contestant Whitney Shields lost it by failing to solve WITHOUT A DOUBT)
  • November 15, 2017 (contestants Frank Harary and Laurel Haim lost it by failing to solve BAKED ZUCCHINI)
  • December 21, 2017 (contestant Eva Klentos lost it by failing to solve OCEAN KAYAKING)
  • January 11, 2019 (contestant Kaia Lacy lost it by failing to solve FLIPPING THROUGH PAGES)
  • January 16, 2019 (contestant Kristen Andrews lost it by failing to solve ANNOYING BUZZER)

A disclaimer in the credits of the 2008 episode states that those who win the $1,000,000 may have it paid in $50,000 installments over 20 years or take a lump sum of $660,000; subsequent wins have had the disclaimer mention a "present value" lump sum, with no value listed.

Several contestants have been only one or two pegs away from the $1,000,000 envelope. Two have lost the wedge to a Bankrupt, then lost $100,000 in the Bonus Round, while one won the $100,000 after losing the wedge. Also, one team during a Family Week won the $100,000 after failing to solve the round in which they claimed the wedge.

During Season 31, the Million-Dollar Wedge became infamous for some in the media believing it to require simply solving the round the wedge is claimed in, spurred by mispronunciations from players who were holding the wedge (CORNER CURIO CABINET on September 17, 2013 and MYTHOLOGICAL HERO ACHILLES on April 11, 2014). It is believed by fans that at least some of those who are berating the show are deliberately ignoring the wedge's actual rules for the sake of a story.

Mystery Round/WedgesEdit

Debuted: September 2, 2002

An original Mystery Wedge.

"The Mystery Round: it's all or nothing!"

The Mystery Round offers a chance at an extra prize in the main game: a pair of Mystery Wedges are placed on the Wheel in Round 2, both with a "face value" of $1,000 ($500 in Seasons 20-21). If a contestant lands on it and calls a correct letter, s/he may take the money for those letters or risk their current earnings (including any cardboard) for a chance at the prize: one wedge has the prize on the reverse, while the other has a Bankrupt. Flipping the wedge also forfeits whatever amount is earned by calling a correct letter on it. If either wedge is flipped over, the other is played at face value for the rest of the round. Since its debut, a tinkle effect and synthesized chord play if an "active" wedge is landed on; during Halloween weeks, a spooky effect such as a moan or howling wolf is added. On April 30, 2010, an organ riff of unknown origin sounded instead.


A second-era Mystery Wedge.


A third-era Mystery Wedge.

The prize was often a compact car or prize in the $10,000 range when the round debuted, but starting in Season 22 was often $10,000 cash. Since October 3, 2005, it has almost always been that (the last known non-$10,000 prize being a Nissan Versa during the week of February 19, 2007). Also, since October 3, 2005, a graphic effect shows viewers what is on the reverse of a wedge if it is landed on and a correct letter is called. Beginning in Season 31, that graphic is only used if a contestant decides not to flip over the wedge, barring instances when the contestant solves immediately after declining.


A fourth-era Mystery Wedge.


A fifth-era Mystery Wedge.

The Mystery Wedges have had six designs, always including a question mark in a circle above the dollar amount, which is in the Clarendon Bold font. They were originally black with a blue circle, a color scheme which was reversed in Season 22. In Season 23, the circles were changed from black to red and the font was darkened. In Season 24, the font became slightly lighter and the digits got a sparkling outline. On November 3, 2008, the wedges' fronts and Bankrupt side became indigo and the outlines were removed; in Season 32, they became a blue-purple gradient.


A sixth-era Mystery Wedge.

The Bankrupt side has also changed over time: it was originally light yellow on black (per the obverse), but for Season 22 changed to dark blue on black. Seasons 23-31 had it as black-on-blue, which changed in Season 32 to a blue-purple gradient. The Bankrupt side lettering is in the font that is the same font as the other Bankrupt wedges.

The $10,000 side is lime green, and the font is Clarendon. From Seasons 22-31, it had a bill on top and transparent bills all over itself. In Season 32, the $10,000 side had its bills removed and the numbers moved upward.

The Mystery Wedges were originally located over the green $500 (between $300 and $800) and the orange-yellow (changed to blue in Season 24) $500 between $900 and $300. In Season 26, the latter was moved to the blue $300 (changed to $700 in Season 30) next to Lose A Turn and the green $500 became a second blue $500 (changed to $300 in Season 30, then $600 in Season 32).

The Mystery Round was in Round 3 until October 17, 2011, when it moved to Round 2. However, the weeks of October 24 and December 26, plus December 5-8 and January 9, had it in Round 3 due to being taped before the change.

Starting in Season 35, if the $10,000 is won, that amount is also awarded to a randomly-drawn Wheel Watchers Club member (except during the Secret Santa Sweepstakes).

Prize PuzzleEdit

The Prize Puzzle awards a prize, usually a trip, to the contestant who solves the puzzle.

Original Version (Lifespan: September 19, 1997 - November 28, 1997)
The Prize Puzzle was first used during Season 15 for Friday Finals, in Round 1. It was likely added as a "bonus" for such players, alongside the Jackpot starting at $10,000 in Round 3. This version of the Prize Puzzle only used three categories (not counting plurals): Event, Place, and Thing.

On its first episode, Pat explained the new element by noting that the puzzle described the prize, giving the example puzzle of EXCITING AFRICAN SAFARI. The actual first puzzle was EXPLORING MODERN CHINA (Event), for a trip to Shanghai. By November 28, a gold "PRIZE PUZZLE" graphic was displayed inside the category strip to the left of the category text. This incarnation was short-lived, lasting for only eight weeks.

Regular Version (Debuted: September 11, 2003)

When the Prize Puzzle returned in Season 21, it was not limited to Fridays, could use any category, and occurred randomly throughout the week; the element began appearing daily in Season 23. Unlike its use in Season 15, the puzzles are now usually merely related to the prize rather than spoiling it outright.

Since its return, Prize Puzzles have always been indicated by a higher-pitched version of the puzzle chimes, and a bug reading "Prize Puzzle". From Seasons 22-29, a wipe (which generally changed with each season) was added as well.

SPIN ID graphic for most of Seasons 28-29.

On March 15, 2004, the show started allowing Wheel Watchers Club members to win the prize offered in a Prize Puzzle with an assigned SPIN ID number. After promoting the prize, the announcer reads a randomly-selected SPIN ID; if a home viewer sees their ID on the show, they have 24 hours to verify it on the show's website. When seen on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the SPIN ID graphic was covered by a red box reading "Open to US residents only".

The SPIN ID reveal has changed several times. Its copy was originally "If you're a Wheel Watchers Club member and your SPIN ID is [number], you're a winner." The first line changed in Season 24 to "Hey, Wheel Watchers, if this is your SPIN ID, [number]...". For the first few weeks of Season 27, it was changed again to "Tonight's winning SPIN ID number, [number], belongs to [first name and last initial] of [city, state]. You have 24 hours to log on to to claim your [description of trip].", with the viewer's name and hometown shown on a "nameplate" graphic while a map of the United States zoomed in on their town. This changed again on October 2, 2009 to omit the hometown, while displaying the viewer's name and state name on an outline of the state as it "popped out" of the map (as seen at right). On September 19, 2011, the map was altered again to always show Alaska and Hawaii on the side, as opposed to those states only being shown if the SPIN ID owner was from one of them. Just two months later (November 21), due to some members failing to include it, the mention of the state was also removed. The graphic concurrently changed to the viewer's name on a ring with either a purple, blue, or green background.

The number itself has always been displayed on a graphic resembling the tumblers of a slot machine, although it has changed subtly over time. The ID itself is not actually read in-studio but dubbed in post-production, and new SPIN IDs were dubbed into reruns until Season 35, where they are now edited out. However, Season 37's mid-season reruns, scheduled to replace episodes pulled due to the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, did dub in new SPIN IDs when applicable.

During the rotation of guest announcers following Charlie O'Donnell's death in November 2010, Vanna usually read the SPIN ID instead of whoever was announcing. On the Summer 2011 repeats, the new SPIN IDs were read by two females believed to be Kelly Miyahara and Sarah Whitcomb (Foss) of the Jeopardy! Clue Crew.

SPIN IDs had two other "regular" purposes: from September 12, 2005 through mid-2009, they were used if a contestant won a car in the Bonus Round, and from April 23, 2007 through September 16, 2011, winners who had an active Sony Card received $50,000 in cash as well. Occasionally, SPIN IDs have been used in home viewer sweepstakes.

Starting September 17, 2012, Prize Puzzle prizes are no longer awarded to home viewers, although the SPIN IDs continue to be used for sweepstakes. The SPIN IDs (and names and locations) continued to be drawn and shown on the weekend repeats until November 23, 2013, after which they became omitted.

Originally, a Prize Puzzle could be in any of the first three rounds. Round 1 was dropped in September 2010, followed by Round 2 on October 17, 2011 (excluding the weeks of October 24 and December 26, both taped before the change). It is not known why this change was made, but it may have been to lessen the chance of a contestant building an early runaway lead.

Barring only three known instances (a home entertainment package on December 24, 2003; $3,500 towards on May 17, 2004; and a $5,000 HomeGoods shopping spree on January 28, 2010), the Prize Puzzle always offers trips. This decision has led to fans often criticizing the puzzles for being overly specific or contrived, and in some cases miscategorized. Pat has also noticed this: following I LOVE MY PASSPORT PHOTO on February 24, 2012, he noted that it was a phrase he had never heard anyone say. Further, some puzzles were clearly taken from vacation brochures, particularly during the Sandals weeks in Seasons 29-30.

Wheel is clearly aware of both factors:

  • Not only did Prize Puzzle graphics use "Prize Puzzle" on a globe (Seasons 25-26; "Prize!" in Season 26) or navigational compass (Season 29), but a poll on the show's website asking for viewers' favorite round included a choice of "The Prize Puzzle for the Trips". Two puzzles have also acknowledged this: TELL ME WHERE I'M GOING PAT on March 17, 2014 and WHERE ARE YOU SENDING ME PAT? on January 31, 2018.
  • In a 2013 interview with Jason Block, Harry Friedman stated that he has final approval on all puzzles used during tapings, which fans noted as an indirect admission of responsibility for the frequently-low quality of Prize Puzzles.

Prize WedgeEdit

"Test" Wedge (Lifespan: November 3-7/December 1, 1975 - January 16, 1976)
The concept of a Prize wedge was first tried on the hour-long episodes in late 1975 and January 1976, used only in the Head-To-Head All-Cash Showdown that determined the day's champion. Unlike the current ones, these were claimed immediately upon being hit and apparently did not require solving the puzzle to be won.

In addition, if a contestant lost it to Bankrupt, it was apparently placed back on the Wheel immediately.

"Regular" Wedge (Debuted: September 19, 1983 {nighttime}/July 17, 1989 {daytime})

Prize wedge of $500 cash (1983).

Prize wedges were introduced permanently on the first nighttime episode in September 1983, and on daytime in July 1989. Like all other winnings, they are held if the contestant solves that round's puzzle without hitting Bankrupt. Initially, contestants who hit a Prize wedge claimed it automatically, then called a letter for the dollar value underneath; the current rule, where players must call a right letter before claiming the wedge, was introduced on both versions between September 11 and December 24, 1990. In September 2012, the wedge began awarding $500 per consonant, similar to the older rule.

It also appears that for at least the first few weeks of the nighttime version, Prize wedges were not forfeited if the contestant hit Bankrupt; this was changed before the end of the season.

From the retirement of shopping until the late 1990s, Wheel prizes were introduced in Rounds 2 and 4, obviously unless Round 4 began as a Speed-Up. Up until around 1991, prizes were available only in the round that they were introduced (for example, if the prize introduced in Round 2 went unclaimed, it was removed for Rounds 3+; likewise, if the prize introduced in Round 4 went unclaimed, it was removed for Rounds 5+). From 1992-96, in the event that neither the Surprise nor Round 2 Prize were claimed by Round 4, the Round 4 Prize was placed on the blue $200. In Season 14, perhaps due to increasing time constraints, the second one was moved to Round 3 but only present if the Surprise was claimed by then. For a short time after the retirement of Surprise, the second Wheel Prize was fully reinstated for Round 3, but it was retired again following Season 19. From then until June 2005, it was in Round 2, and moved to its current position of Round 1 that September.

While Bob Goen was host, the daytime show generally introduced a new prize starting in Round 2; each time a prize was claimed, it was replaced with a new prize (up to two), which often presented the scenario of having three prizes on the Wheel for Rounds 4+. Upon the show's return to NBC in January 1991, the first prize was moved to Round 1 and a flashing chyron was added showing a prize's value if it was picked up.

Until the late 1990s, Prize wedges often offered a variety of prizes, including some rather esoteric choices such as autographed memorabilia, framed art, jewelry, or even cars. Since around 2000, it is extremely rare for the prize to be something other than a trip, or occasionally a gift card or cash provided by a sponsor. From about 2008 onward, the Prize copy may also be accompanied by a trailer for an upcoming film, particularly if a copy of said film is included as part of the prize bundle.

The current Prize wedge is on the purple $500 ($350 before Season 30, also the position of the Round 2 prize after the single Wheel template was introduced on September 16, 1996). If the Prize wedge is red, it typically moves to another wedge to prevent it from being adjacent to the red $800. Since late 2011, with the permanent placement of the Prize Puzzle in Round 3, the Prize is removed before then.

From 1983-89, Prize wedges were lime green with black text. By 1989, they became light yellow. Partway through Season 12, a bright green color was introduced. For Season 14, they were greenish-brown with dark green text in the Clarendon font (with sparkles for the first two weeks). Since September 1997, they have generally featured artwork representing the prize in question.

Starting in Season 33, the announcer only describes the prize if it is won, unless the copy also includes a promotional plug; a similar method had been done during Season 12 with the Round 4 Prize.

Speed-Up/Final SpinEdit

Debuted: approx. January 6, 1975

Present since the earliest days (but not on the first two pilots), the Speed-Up round is used when time is running short. It is indicated by a bell sound, which was changed from its original sound (which also served as the "time's up" bell on the original version of Jeopardy!) when many of the show's sound effects were overhauled in mid-1989.

During a Speed-Up, the host spins the Wheel (the "Final Spin" of the game) to determine the cash value of each consonant called (plus $1,000 since October 4, 1999), and vowels are free. A shopping round still followed the Speed-Up even if the round began as one, although if time ran very short, the round was played for a gift certificate with no shopping. If the winner had a large amount when the round was played for a gift certificate, the host usually pointed out a car or other expensive prize that the player could buy.

Control begins with the player who was in control at the time the Speed-Up chimes play, with the value of a correct letter determined by whatever value the red arrow landed on. Each player calls one letter at a time, going in order from the viewer's left to right. After calling a letter, the contestant has three seconds (reduced from five on April 13, 1998) to solve the puzzle. Since about October 2000, every game ends in a Speed-Up (except November 27, 2000, due to a contestant solving over the Final Spin bells), most likely to allow for a better chance at a comeback by trailing contestants and to bring a definite "end" to gameplay. Previously, they were only used if necessary, and it was not uncommon for a game to end without one. Despite this, at least two episodes before their becoming permanent (one from January or February 1989, plus September 12, 1996) had the final round go to Speed-Up with only one consonant remaining in the puzzle. Many games since the mid-2000s will let Round 4 finish normally if it is almost completely filled in, then start Round 5 as a Speed-Up, although March 18, 2011 and April 29, 2015 had Round 4 go to Speed-Up with only one consonant remaining.

If a Speed-Up puzzle has all the consonants revealed, the announcement that only vowels remain, if any, has been inconsistent over the years. Originally, the "only vowels remain" beeps were generally not used at all. Starting around the late 1990s, the beeps would often sound either immediately after the last consonant was called or at the start of the next player's turn if necessary. Beginning in the early 2010s, the beeps are now exclusively used on the turn after the last consonant is revealed if at all (a practice that has affected the final outcome at least once), and are sometimes added in post-production with no such announcement in the studio.

Originally, if the last round began with a Final Spin, the category and puzzle were not revealed until after the dollar value was established. This was changed to show the puzzle with chimes, followed by the Final Spin, sometime around October 2000; however, it was not done on November 2, 2000. This change was likely in relation to the decision to use a Final Spin in every game.

Initially, if the host hit something other than a cash amount on the Final Spin, it was left in and he spun again; this led to an oddity on June 14, 1990 and January 25, 1994 where Pat's Final Spin hit Bankrupt three times before he finally landed on a cash wedge ($5,000 and $1,500, respectively). Other Final Spins have landed on Lose A Turn, Prize wedges, and even Surprise. According to one recollection, Bob Goen once hit Bankrupt repeatedly on a Final Spin and ultimately asked Vanna to spin for him.

The practice of editing out "bad" Final Spins became normal in 1997 (although it is believed to have been done occasionally before then if the game ran long), and edits can usually be spotted by looking at the Wheel's position just before the close-up shot. From then until the end of Season 23, the second Bankrupt and any remaining cardboard were removed should a round start as a Speed-Up. In Season 24, the second Bankrupt was present even if a round started as a Speed-Up, but it was again removed for Seasons 25-26. Since Season 27, Free Play and the second Bankrupt are always present, even if the round begins as a Speed-Up.

Originally, clacking and chalkboard taps were frequently heard during Speed-Up rounds. These were from the Used Letter Board, as the hinged letter cards chosen were flipped back and scores changed. Sometime between December 11, 1986 and mid-October 1988, the chalkboard was replaced by a dry-erase board; around 1997, both were replaced by a single monitor. Background music was added starting on November 6, 2000, and the music bed has changed several times since.

During a Speed-Up round, the contestants are shown at the top of the screen with the puzzle at the bottom; originally in reverse until sometime between September 22 and December 28, 1981. The category display was present from about March 1978 until sometime between September 22 and December 28, 1981, returning around October 1987.

According to one recollection, early Speed-Up rounds did not allow contestants to pick vowels in the first 30 seconds; this period ended with a beeping noise, possibly the "only vowels remain" ones, to signify that vowels could now be chosen. Interestingly, on the July 15, 1975 episode, the game ends with what Chuck refers to as "our final 60-second round" and indicates that vowels may not be picked at all; he also prompts each contestant to solve immediately after calling a correct letter, thus suggesting that the Speed-Up round was originally timed, although it is not known what was done if the time limit expired. A likely possibility is that each contestant got a chance to solve the puzzle at the end of the 60 seconds, with the puzzle being thrown out otherwise; this theory is based on the fact that this is still the procedure if only vowels remain in a puzzle but no contestant has at least $250. The Milton Bradley games released in 1975 do not prohibit vowels in the Speed-Up or give the round a time limit, suggesting it was dropped prior to November 3.


Debuted: September 4, 2000

The puzzle answer is revealed one letter at a time. Contestants are given color-coded buzzers similar to those on Jeopardy! and may ring in when they think they know the answer. When a contestant rings in, the "right letter" ding is heard. Failing to give a correct answer locks out that player for the rest of the Toss-Up.

For its first season, a Toss-Up was used before the interviews to determine who starts Round 1 and again before Round 4 to determine who starts that round. Both Toss-Ups were valued at $1,000, and the round was not split-screened, so home viewers saw only the puzzle board and had no indication besides Pat's voice as to which contestant had rung in.

In Season 19, a third Toss-Up was added between the interviews and Round 1, with the values set at $1,000, $2,000, and $3,000. The rounds also became split-screened, identically to Speed-Up rounds. The $1,000 is essentially a "warm-up" determining who is interviewed first; the $2,000 Toss-Up determines who starts Round 1; and the $3,000 one (still before Round 4) determines who starts that round.

On rare occasions, Toss-Ups are unsolved, at which point the Bonus Round "time's up" buzzer sounds. Most frequently, unsolved Toss-Ups stem from a wrong answer being given with most of the puzzle revealed, leaving little to no time for anyone else to ring in. However, there have been a few instances where all three contestants have rung in with wrong answers (at least some of which also had the "wrong letter" buzzer sound when the third player gave a wrong answer), and at least two (one circa 2002, one on March 31, 2014) where no one rang in at all. The former was left in the episode, while the latter was edited out and replaced with a new Toss-Up which was solved.

If the $1,000 Toss-Up goes unsolved, the player in the red position is interviewed first; if the $2,000 one is not solved, the red player starts Round 1; and if the $3,000 one is not solved, the player who started Round 1 also starts Round 4.

Since their introduction, Toss-Ups are also used as tiebreakers. If a tie occurs after the Speed-Up, a fourth Toss-Up is played between the two tied contestants, and the contestant who gives the correct answer proceeds to the Bonus Round. The first two times that this happened (March 13, 2003 and March 2, 2006), the tiebreaker Toss-Up had no additional cash value, but the third instance (May 25, 2016) valued the round at $1,000. A tiebreaker Toss-Up valued at $1,000 also occurred on the second episode of the Second Chance Lottery Promotion taped after the end of Season 34.

In Season 37, the $3,000 Toss-Up was replaced with the Triple Toss-Up. In this round, three consecutive Toss-Ups are played, each with the same category and frequently a common theme to the answers. Each is valued at $2,000, and solving the third grants the right to start Round 4. A correct answer on the either or both of the first two results in a series of high-pitched dings.

Ever since the introduction of Toss-Ups in 2000, there is a light music bed, composed by Steve Kaplan, is associated with these rounds (albeit, it is used through Season 19) and there is a solve cue associated with it. In Season 20, the music bed is altered adding percussion beats and the solve cue is changed (in main rounds, the final note is extended). In the beginning of Season 24, the solve cue is changed to the one by Frankie Blue (used until 2017), which the final note does not extend. On February 5, 2007, the music bed is changed to the one composed by Frankie Blue (albeit, it is used in a lower key and used until 2017) and the percussion beats are more audible. On January 2, 2017, these cues are changed again, with John Hoke composing the current ones.

Wild CardEdit

Debuted: October 23, 2006

The Wild Card offers an extra letter to be called on a spin for the same amount as the contestant is currently sitting on (including the face values of the Free Play and Mystery Wedges), plus $500 per consonant when it is picked up since the beginning of Season 30, which allows players to use the card immediately after picking it up. Alternatively, it can be taken to the Bonus Round, where it allows for a fourth consonant.

The card was originally on the green $700, although it temporarily moved to the pink $900 for the week of April 11, 2011. It stayed on the pink $900 in Season 29, and moved again to the green $500 (formerly $600) next to top dollar in Season 30, at which point it also began offering $500 per consonant.

For its first season, Pat frequently forgot that the Wild Card is lost to Bankrupt, and would often forget to take it back until several turns later. This was most notable in a Teen Best Friends Week show in January 2007, where a team kept it into the Bonus Round despite having hit Bankrupt while holding it, although they did not solve the bonus puzzle.

In Seasons 24-25, the Wild Card was unique in that it was the only extra wedge or token that remained available after Round 3. Since Season 26, it is removed after that round.

Originally, contestants tended to use the Wild Card on random dollar amounts as opposed to almost always using it on the top dollar value. If a contestant hits the top dollar amount while holding the card, Pat often prompts them to use it. He once prompted a contestant to use it on a Mystery Wedge at its face value of $1,000, and has occasionally prompted on $900 as well. Starting in Season 30, he occasionally prompts contestants to use it on random amounts in Round 4, most often if the contestants are trailing.

It seems that for most of the card's life, players could only use the Wild Card immediately after calling a consonant. However, a contestant in March 2007 landed on $3,500, bought a vowel, and then used the card successfully. By Season 31, using it after buying a vowel for the amount they previously spun became inconsistently allowed.

When the Wild Card used in the Bonus Round, the fourth letter provided by it is called after the "three more consonants and a vowel". On the chyron, the Wild Card letter is revealed by a graphic of the card turning.

Retired ElementsEdit

½ CarEdit

"One-Third" Style (Lifespan: April 11-15, 2011)

A ½ Car Wedge.

The original ½ Car Wedges were used for a special Road Trip week in Season 28. Similarly to the $10,000 and Million-Dollar Wedges, it had a one-third-sized "Car" space surrounded by one-third-sized red $500 wedges, and a license plate-shaped "car" tag on top. Hitting the "car" space in the middle awarded the tag plus $500 per consonant; solving the puzzle allowed the contestant to keep the tag, and getting two awarded a Hyundai Accent. The ½ Car Wedges were in play from Rounds 1-3, and located over the orange $300 and blue $500 next to the red $900. If a tag was landed on, a car horn sounded.

The original "Car" tags were unique in that they were not lost to Bankrupts hit in subsequent rounds (but were lost to Bankrupts hit in the same round). Also, if one was claimed, it was replaced with another in the next round. During the week that these were in play, only two tags were ever hit, with one lost to Bankrupt and the other "kept", and several variables involving the tags were not explored.

Another unique property of the ½ Car Wedge was that it affected two other spaces on the Wheel for aesthetic purposes: the red $900 wedge became blue until Round 4, and the Wild Card moved to the pink $900. These changes were reverted for the rest of Season 28.

Current Style (Lifespan: September 26, 2011-June 7, 2019)

A ½ Kia license plate.

Shortly into Season 29, the ½ Car pieces returned as "½ Kia" license plate-shaped tags featuring the logo of said manufacturer and offering a $15,000 Kia Soul. One was still over the blue $500, but the other moved one wedge counterclockwise to the green $500 (changed from $700), also resulting in Wild Card's relocation to the pink $900. The car horn still sounded if one was landed on. Also, the tags became vulnerable to any Bankrupt. When a tag was picked up, a large graphic of a tag appeared on the contestant's scoreboard before shrinking to fit under their score. Beginning on September 28, 2011, collecting a tag also awards $500 per consonant. They were still replaced in subsequent rounds if one was picked up, unless the car was won.

From October 24-28 and 31 (the first episodes taped in Season 29), the tags said "½ Car" in blue, similarly to the first ones, and offered a $14,999 Ford Fiesta plus $500 per consonant; the Kia tags returned on November 1, but were absent on December 5 due to it being a sixth episode from the season premiere week.

On several occasions, contestants picked up tags in situations where winning the car is impossible, most often by picking up the second one in Round 3 after the first one had been lost to Bankrupt. Conversely, five contestants have managed to win the car after picking up three tags.

In Season 30, the tags reverted to the "½ Car" design to reflect a change in the cars offered, with the three most frequent choices being a Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic, and Smart Car. Also, the tag next to the green $300 was moved onto it (now increased to $500). In Season 31, the Smart Car was replaced with the Chevy Spark, and in Season 32, the Chevy Sonic was replaced with the Nissan Versa Note S.

For the week of September 30, 2013 only, the tags were altered to feature a black frame around the edges, with the make of the car at the bottom of the frame. Also during this week only, they offered a Mazda2.

The tags were not used on team weeks unless the teams were all married couples, likely due to the difficulty of sharing a car otherwise. They were also not used during the weeks of November 3, 2014; February 9 and 16, 2015; March 2, 2015; and April 27, 2015. The former three weeks were taped on-location in Hawaii, with the 9th being a couples' week, while the latter two were sponsored by Disney. The tags were later removed permanently from couples' weeks, only to return in Season 36.

Starting in Season 33, the ½ Car tags were limited to Rounds 2 and 3, and the Fiesta became the only vehicle offered by them. The car changed back to the Nissan Versa in Season 35. The tags were retired at the end of Season 36.

$10,000 WedgeEdit

Lifespan: November 28, 1994 - June 6, 2008

A one-peg-wide, golden $10,000 design with a one-peg-wide Bankrupt on either side. It was located on an orange $800 from 2002 until its retirement, orange-yellow $300 from 1996-2002, and before September 14, 1996 on the Bankrupt between $600 and $500 (between $350 and $750 from September 2-13, 1996). Hitting the $10,000 portion gave the contestant a $10,000 cash prize if a correct letter was called, which was treated like a Prize wedge and could not be spent on vowels.

When the wedge debuted, it used a noticeably thinner font and its reverse was blank. The regular font was introduced on the wedge's sixth episode (although the thinner font returned for Disney World episodes in February 1995), while the reverse gained a shiny $10,000 design around October 1995. From this point onward, it was placed upside-down on the contestant's arrow whenever claimed. For its final two seasons, the numbers on the reverse were given white outlines.

Initially, the wedge was introduced in Round 3 and stayed on the Wheel until claimed. In Season 14, it was only in play during Round 2, and moved back to Round 3 in Season 18 (and as before, was removed after the round, even if unclaimed). Beginning in Season 20, it was only available in Round 1.

On January 9, 1997, the $10,000 Wedge was accidentally placed on the Wheel upside-down and treated as a cash space, although the contestant who hit it did not call a multiple or solve the puzzle. It is also believed that, during the Big Money Week of May 29, 2000, it was placed upside-down and used as the top dollar value for Round 4 of at least the Friday episode. On November 6, 2000, it was accidentally placed on the Wheel for Round 2 and won; as a result, it remained for Round 3 as well.

In September 2008, the $10,000 Wedge was "upgraded" to the Million-Dollar Wedge, which functions similarly.

25 WedgeEdit

Lifespan: September 10, 2007 - June 6, 2008

A second Wheel prize, located on the purple $550 in Round 2 (the first three rounds for the first week of taping). The wedge offered a special prize with a theme of 25 (such as a $2,500 cash prize, $2,500 in gas cards, etc.) and functioned identically to the existing Prize wedges. Its reverse featured a graphic corresponding to the prize that it offered, and Pat would describe the prize if it was claimed.

Big Money WedgeEdit

Lifespan: September 10, 2007 - June 6, 2008
First big money

The first design.


The second design.

A special wedge used in the Mystery Round, located on the yellow $400 between $600 and $300 (where Free Play is now). This wedge contained a small screen that alternated randomly among values of $5,000, $7,500, and $25,000 plus Lose A Turn and Bankrupt (which was sometimes displayed with black text on a white background instead of vice-versa). If it was landed on, the wedge was "enhanced" by a graphic effect that highlighted it with a yellow glow. Its cash values were not multiplied by the letter. If any of its cash amounts were claimed, it offered $1,000 per letter for the rest of the round.

For the first week of taping only, its amounts were treated as prizes, but for the rest of the season, any money won with it could be spent on vowels. Also for the first week only, the contestant's scoreboard displayed "BIG MONEY" along with the score.

Originally, players could use the Wild Card on any of its amounts, which happened at least once (for $7,500 on November 13). By April 9, this was altered so the Wild Card was only usable on the wedge's regular $1,000.

Initially, the Big Money Wedge was a sparkly yellowish-green with a magenta readout. On October 29, it was overhauled to royal blue with five vertical rows of red dots and a lighter blue readout, a design that was recycled in Season 26 for the final Jackpot wedge.

Buy A VowelEdit

Lifespan: September 1973 - approx. October 31, 1975

A red wedge on the Wheel (two in Rounds 3+) from which contestants purchased a vowel for $250. From the Shopper's Bazaar pilot through at least September 5, 1975, contestants could buy vowels at their discretion provided they had enough to do so, making the wedge redundant. Given this and the fact the 1974 pilots added the wedge in Round 2, it would seem the purpose of Buy A Vowel (which was never hit in the first two pilots) was to be the "impulse buy" that could backfire.

Other than this, it is one of the most uncertain elements in the show's history, with recollections being contradictory on every aspect including the above:

  • What it did if the player did not have enough to buy a vowel: At least one eyewitness reported an early screenshot of a contestant with a negative score, so it is believed that the $250 was still deducted. Others recall that the wedge resulted in a lost turn if the player did not have enough. The latter is known to have happened on the September 5, 1975 episode, where a player hit Buy A Vowel on the first spin of the game and lost their turn.
  • What it did if all vowels in the puzzle had been revealed: Several recollections claim that it acted like Lose A Turn, although whether it deducted $250 anyway is unknown.

During 1975, Milton Bradley released two board game adaptations which use the following rules for Buy A Vowel:

  • Players must land on the wedge to buy vowels.
  • Money put "on account" can be spent on vowels, which suggests the wedge took from the "ON ACCOUNT" display first (if applicable).
  • If a player does not have $250 upon landing on the wedge, s/he loses their turn.
  • Strangely, there is no rule for what to do if a player with $250 lands on the wedge after all vowels in the puzzle have been revealed. The lack of a Used Letter Board or rules for "no more vowels" and "only vowels remain" (which was in place on the show) would indicate that players have to buy an uncalled vowel even if they know it is not in the puzzle, but this still does not address what to do after all five have been called. An early picture of Susan Stafford shows the Used Letter Board without its letters, suggesting that it debuted sometime into production (definitely by July 15, 1975) and players originally had to remember what had been called.

While this would allow for the aforementioned contradictions, it is not known whether Milton Bradley was reflecting a rule change or "patched" what the company saw as a format hole (and if so, whether the show itself even adopted these changes) while simultaneously opening another. Given the common practice of recycling game parts, it is also unknown whether the wedge was actually still in use when the Second Edition was released later that year.

It is not quite known when Buy A Vowel was retired, with various accounts having claimed it lasted anywhere from the first few episodes up until the end of 1975. It is known to have been present through at least September 5, which still has contestants able to buy vowels at their discretion without landing on it. The Milton Bradley games have the wedge coexisting with a Wheel layout that has no two-digit values, indicating that it at least survived that long.

Cash Wedges (Retired)Edit

Lifespan: see below
Many values have been used by the show, then dropped: $0, $25, $50 and $50♦, $75 and $75♦, $100, $125, $150, $175, $200, $225, $250, $275, $300, $325, $350, $375, $400, $425, $450, $750, $850, $950, $1,250, $1,500, $2,000, and $6,000.

$0 was only present in the Shopper's Bazaar pilot, while $225, $325, $375, and $425 were only used in the 1974 pilots. $25, $50, and $75 were the first three values dropped after Wheel went to series (and were gone by no later than July 15, 1975), and the Round 1 layout on a 1975 Belgian episode heavily suggests that $25 was the first casualty.

$125, $275, $650, and $850 were removed sometime between September 5 and November 13, 1979, when the top values became $750/$1,000/$2,000; this also resulted in the return of $550, which had previously been used in the 1974 pilots. The resulting layouts remained, barring a few moves and increases/decreases, until $175 left in September 1986.

$175 was the only value seen on the nighttime show that was not a multiple of $50. $100 was the smallest value the nighttime show ever used, with its last known appearance as an in-game value being May 5, 1986.

$2,000 was retired when Bob Goen became host of the daytime show (July 17, 1989), with $50, $75, $125, and $175 returning and $1,250 added as top dollar in Round 4. The two-digit values were given diamonds on July 18, but the minimum was re-increased to $100 sometime between August 24 and September 18; $100, $125, $175, and $1,250 were retired following the 1991 finale.

$1,250, which existed only during the Bob Goen era on the daytime show, holds the distinction of being the only four-digit cash wedge to have ended in something other than -00 as well as the only one to have had its hundreds digit be something other than a zero or five.

September 16, 1996 debuted the show's current single-template layout, removing $150, $200, $750, and $1,500. $250 remained until October 4, 1999.

Wheel 2000 returned 100, 150, 200, 650, 750, and 2,000 to the Wheel as point values, with 2,000 being top value for Round 2. 850 returned only for the Bravo Card tour.

$1,000 remained through June 2, 2000, then returned on September 6, 2004 as the increased face value for the Mystery Wedges. $1,500 and $2,000 also returned for the Season 22 opening animation, marking the latter's only nighttime appearance.

$700 was retired at the beginning of Season 29, but returned in Season 30. Also returning in Season 30 was $650, in its first nighttime appearance (not counting rug and turntable layouts).

$550 was retired in Season 31, but returned in Season 32.

$6,000 was used for the week of April 28, 2014 only, in honor of the show's 6,000th nighttime episode, replacing $5,000 as the top value for Round 4. It was never hit, with four of the shows that week having Round 4 begin as a Speed-Up.

$950 is a unique example as it has never been used on the Wheel itself, but appeared from 1987-94 on rug and turntable layouts along with the 1989-92 opening animation. Exactly why it has never been used in gameplay is unknown.

Though not done on the show proper, $750, $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000 made one-time returns on a special Wheel layout made specifically for the 2012 "Lottery Experience" sweepstakes, matching the format of the layout used on the current show, but lacking penalty wedges. This layout also featured $1,750, a never-used value, as well as a permanent variation of the $10,000 Wedge with the Bankrupts replaced with $500 wedges.

A layout composed entirely of $1,800, $3,600, $7,200, and two Bankrupts was created for use in a multitude of Wheel appearances throughout the third season of the Amazon Prime series Transparent, all of which were filmed shortly after Season 33 finished taping with the season finale's set still in place. Again, this layout did not appear on the show proper.

$300 is the only value that had always been on the Wheel until 2014, when it along with $350, $400, and $450 were retired in that year. Prior to Season 32, the only known Wheel layout used on the show that $300 was absent from was a boat rug used from 1987-88.

Double PlayEdit

Lifespan: September 4, 1995 - July 18, 1996

Normally located on the blue $300 (between $400 and $200) in Round 2 where it was introduced, then moved to the pink $200 between $400 and $900 for Rounds 3+ (On the pink $300 between $700 and $600 if Round 2 uses the 2nd wheel template), the token could be used before any turn to double the value of the next spin.

During its first episode, the token was placed over Free Spin's then-normal spot of the purple $200 next to Lose A Turn in Round 2 since Free Spin was claimed in Round 1, then on the tan $200 between $500 and $550 in Rounds 3+. A post-production shot of the latter position occurred during Round 2.

If Double Play was used before hitting Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, the penalty had no additional effect but the token was not returned. The official rules stated that landing on a Prize wedge, Surprise, or Free Spin gave that player the choice of taking the token back or applying it to their next spin. However, it was used (successfully) to double the $10,000 Wedge's value on a February 1996 episode. Unlike most other "extras", but similar to the Star Bonus, the Double Play was not lost if a contestant hit Bankrupt while holding it.

Free SpinEdit

Lifespan: September 1973 - July 17, 2009

The Free Spin wedge.

A single tan wedge on the Wheel that automatically gave that player a Free Spin disc, after which s/he spun again. A Free Spin could be used at any time after a contestant lost a turn, or saved for later.

The wedge introduced in 1974 originally had white outlines like the other three special spaces, which was removed sometime between January 6 and mid-October 1975. Free Spin carried into Round 2 upon the introduction of all-cash in October 1987, but in March 1988 returned to being a Round 1 exclusive with an off-model yellow $200 covering it in subsequent rounds. This yellow wedge was upgraded to $300 sometime between late March and April 28, 1988, but Free Spin returned to Round 2 on the daytime show in July 1989.

On Shopper's Bazaar, the Free Spin disc was a thin cardboard piece with "FREE SPIN" printed on one side against a yellow background. In 1974, it became tan with "FREE SPIN" printed horizontally across the center. The more familiar green design, with "SPIN" in the center and "Free" on the top and bottom in yellow script, was introduced on July 17, 1989.


The second Free Spin disc.

On October 16, 1989, the Free Spin wedge was retired with the yellow wedge being upgraded to $500 ($400 in daytime) and taking over for all rounds, and Free Spin reduced to a single disc placed over a random dollar amount; with only one known exception, it was only ever placed on amounts that were multiples of $100. In Season 13, it was placed on the purple $200 next to Lose A Turn. It remained there for the first two weeks of Season 14, then moved to the green $300 on September 16, 1996 when the templates were overhauled, and stayed there until its retirement. It was most likely changed to a single disc to prevent contestants from gaining unfair advantages by turning in multiple Free Spins, or banking multiple discs that never got used.

Originally, the Free Spin token was claimed like Prize wedges (being immediately removed and a letter called for the value underneath), which changed sometime between September 11 and December 25, 1990 to require a correct letter first. In September 2007, the Free Spin began awarding $300 per correct letter (similar to the older rule), with the disc moving up the wedge (so that it no longer obscured the 3) to make the change more obvious. Also in this timespan, the disc was available in the first three rounds instead of the first two rounds.

Free VowelEdit

Lifespan: September 1973
A single wedge used only in the Shopper's Bazaar pilot between $100 and $250 in Rounds 1-2 ($400 and $350 in Rounds 3-4) which allowed the player who landed on it to pick a vowel at no cost, although she still lost her turn if the vowel was not present. As the wedge was hit about five times (no more than twice in a single round), it is not known what happened if it was landed on after all vowels in the puzzle were revealed.

While Free Vowel was dropped from the format after Bazaar, it returned 36 years later as part of Free Play.

Jackpot Round/Wedge (Daytime)Edit

Lifespan: September 15, 1986 - September 16, 1988

"Look at this studio, filled with glamorous prizes! Fabulous and exciting merchandise, including a(n) $[#],000 cash jackpot!"

The daytime Jackpot was used in Round 3 on the red $300 between $250 and $200. Unlike the Jackpot used from 1996-2013, this one began at $1,000 and increased by $1,000 every day until won. It was treated as a Prize wedge, and the money won with it could not be spent on vowels or in shopping rounds.

If the Jackpot was not won at $1,000, its value was stated during the opening until claimed (a spiel similar to that of the $5,000 cash prize from at least July 17-21, 1989). Strangely, the wedge was not used during themed weeks.

The highest known Jackpot was $22,000, awarded on November 27, 1987.

The Jackpot was likely introduced to help distinguish the two versions, as they were near-identical at the beginning of Season 4 and would remain so until early Season 5. The wedge was most likely retired to prevent the possibility of an insurmountable lead if it was worth more than about $4,000 and there was enough time for more rounds; it is not known whether the Jackpot was won, or how much it was worth, on its last episode (the most it could have been was $5,000, as it was won (for $1,000) on the September 9, 1988 show).

Jackpot Round/Wedge (Nighttime)Edit

Lifespan: September 16, 1996 - June 14, 2013

The original Jackpot Wedge.

A cash prize which began at $5,000 and had the value of each successive spin added to it. An onscreen display throughout the round showed how much was in the Jackpot. To claim it, the contestant had to land on the wedge, call a right letter, and solve – all within the same turn.

The wedge was originally over the orange $300, moving to the green $500 in 1998 and the red $300 in 2008 (changed to $700 in 2012). Initially, the Jackpot was in Round 3, but moved to Round 2 from May 1-12, 2000 (a change that became official at the beginning of Season 18). In Season 27, it moved to Round 1.

From February 7, 1997 until the retirement of the Friday Finals, the Jackpot started at $10,000 on Friday Finals episodes. Beginning in Season 24, the wedge acted as a $500 space: letters called on the wedge were worth $500 each plus a flat $500 towards the Jackpot; previously, letters called on Jackpot had no value.

When the Jackpot was won, fireworks exploded across the top of the screen. Prior to 2004, fireworks "exploded" on the Jackpot display before transforming into twinkling stars.

The first Jackpot win was on September 26, 1996, at the base value of $5,000, and the last one was on June 10, 2013, at $7,600. The largest known Jackpot is $23,250, offered (but not won) on September 19, 1997; the largest known win is $16,000 on October 5, 2006.


The final Jackpot wedge.

The Jackpot wedge had twelve distinct appearances over its lifetime, more than any other, with four designs in its first season and three more in its second; the eleventh design (its last before it recycled the housing of the Big Money Wedge) can be seen at Sony Studios' Wheel Hall of Fame.

Preview PuzzleEdit

Lifespan: October 4, 1999 - June 2, 2000

"Here's tonight's Preview Puzzle just for you at home. It's a [category]. Can you solve it? Stay tuned for the correct answer."

A short, partially-filled puzzle with category shown before the intro. While it was shown, Vanna would mention it through the above voiceover; after she and Pat walked out, she revealed its answer. The first one used was TOM CRUISE (Proper Name).

The Preview Puzzle is unique in that it had no bearing on the game whatsoever, and was entirely for the home audience. It was most likely an attempt to provide more play-along factors for viewers.

Preview Puzzles were typically presented on the then-current puzzle board, although on November 8 (the first episode of the show's tour in New York), both the partially-filled puzzle and its solution were done on the set of Live with Regis & Kathie Lee by that show's staff, who held up cue cards with the letters on them. The final episode in New York, on November 19, 1999 (which was a Best Friends Week) had the Preview Puzzle on a subway; the subway would make a stop to show the partially-filled puzzle and the image freeze-framed and its puzzle zoomed in; when the puzzle was ready to be revealed, the freeze-frame shot of the partially-filled puzzle was changed to have a later videotape shot showing the completely revealed puzzle. Also, for the Retro Week of December 27, the Preview Puzzle was a freeze-frame shot of a partially-filled puzzle on an episode using the trilon-era puzzle board, with the answer revealed by Vanna on the current board, again using the exact same arrangement of the puzzle and the partially-filled puzzle already filled in.

The concept of the Preview Puzzle was reworked in Season 30, becoming a regular feature: the Retro Bonus Round.


Lifespan: June 12/September 21, 1998 - June 2, 2000

The original "spark" graphic.

Puzzler with Purple Banner

The first "banner" graphic.

Introduced on June 12, 1998 and made permanent on September 21, Puzzler was an "extra" puzzle done most often after Round 1 or 2, but it occurred in Round 3 at least once. The Puzzler answer was related to the puzzle immediately before it, with the category and about half of the letters revealed. The contestant who solved the corresponding round then had five seconds to solve the Puzzler for a $3,000 bonus, during which the Bonus Round beeps played. If the Puzzler was in Round 1, this typically meant that Round 1's answer would be extremely short (usually under 10 letters), sometimes resulting in the Puzzler being longer than the answer it preceded. Puzzlers almost always used only one line, even if they were the type of puzzle that would normally use two.

The Puzzler appears to have debuted on the last show of Season 15, only to disappear for the first two weeks of Season 16. This was likely a "test run" of sorts, comparable to the ½ Car/Kia tags, the Crossword Round, and (most likely) the five-and-a-vowel Bonus Round.

The Puzzler underwent a few changes during its lifetime:

  • Originally, the Puzzler used an orange "spark" graphic and was indicated by a series of bells.
  • Sometime between October 12 and November 9, 1998, the bells were removed, with no sound effect replacing them.
  • On October 4, 1999, the graphic became a purple bar with "$3,000" on one side and "PUZZLER" on another (both in light purple) that moved diagonally across the screen from bottom-right to top-left.
  • Sometime between November 19 and December 3, the banner became pink with gold characters.

Red-Letter PuzzlesEdit

Lifespan: approx. October 1993 - February 8, 1995
Red Letter Puzzle

Puzzles that could occur at any time during the main game, in any category. The puzzle answer had red letters in it that spelled out a short (usually 4-7 letters) word, and after a contestant solved the puzzle, s/he was given five seconds to unscramble the red letters for $1,000. To aid the contestant, the rest of the letters in the puzzle were turned off.

The show also held an annual home viewer sweepstakes with similar puzzles, where viewers could submit the word spelled out by the colored letters for a chance at winning a prize:

  • The Red-Letter Sweepstakes in Season 10 (February 8-22, 1993), which presumably led to the regular Red-Letter Puzzles.
  • The Gold-Letter Sweepstakes (February 7-18, 1994), with gold letters that spelled the last name of an Academy Award winner.
  • The Red, White & Blue Sweepstakes (November 7-18, 1994), with red-and-blue letters that spelled the last name of a U.S. President.
  • After the Red-Letter Puzzles were discontinued, the Olympic Sweepstakes (May 6-10, 1996) had red-and-blue letters that spelled an Olympics-related word.

Returning ChampionsEdit

Lifespan: August 28, 1974 - June 7, 1996
"If you win today, we're gonna retire you as a champ."

Another well-known retired element. While early documents of Shopper's Bazaar (shown briefly on the show's E! True Hollywood Story in 2005) mentioned returning champions, Chuck states following the Shopper's Special that there would be three new players "tomorrow".

When Wheel debuted in 1975, contestants could stay on for up to five days; this was reduced to three sometime between June 7, 1976 and July 5, 1977. A notable exception is the winner of Benirschke's last show (June 30, 1989), who did not return for Goen's debut on July 17.

The nighttime show originally did not use returning champions, adopting the concept when it moved to Television City in September 1989. The element was replaced from 1996-98 by the Friday Finals, where the three highest-scoring players from Monday-Thursday returned to compete again. If the winner of that show won the Bonus Round, they received an extra prize. The winner of the Season 13 finale returned for her third appearance on September 4, but nothing was said about her returning.

Before the Friday Finals became a regular element, it was used for College Week, Family Week, Teen Week, and others on both daytime and nighttime.

In September 1998, the show returned to one-and-done for all contestants. Pat Sajak explained on the Sony Rewards website that this change was made because the most skilled players are not always the big winners: a contestant who is skilled at solving puzzles may end up repeatedly hitting Bankrupt or Lose A Turn, while an unskilled one might end up with a runaway lead.

Returning to one-and-done has resulted in several contestants winning the game, only to lose the Bonus Round and leave with very little to show for their efforts. There have been various winning scores of far less than $10,000 after Season 15, with the lowest known being $5,100 on September 3, 2001 (although one team during Soap Stars Week in November 1998 had only $2,450 before winning the Bonus Round).

Until sometime between August 28, 1983 and the end of 1998, contestants could try out for the show following their initial appearance: one contestant appeared on October 8, 1980 and the third nighttime episode, while an early nighttime player was told he could return in a year. Now, unlike Jeopardy! (where contestants who appeared on a version other than the Alex Trebek run can appear again), contestants who were on the American Wheel at any point are not allowed back: the official website specifically mentions Wheel 2000 and the daytime show (name-checking Chuck Woolery, Goen, and Sajak) on its "Show FAQs" page, while the "Contestant FAQs" page uses the generic "Our rule is that you can be on the show only once in a lifetime. There are a lot of people who want to spin the Wheel!"

At least five known episodes (two in Season 6; April 2, 2004; Februray 28, 2008; and November 30, 2018) have featured contestants who were brought back due to an unexplained technical error on their previous episodes, and it is very likely that others have returned for similar reasons.



Lifespan: September 1973 - October 2, 1987 (nighttime)/June 30, 1989 (daytime)
"Try not to hit that black space, Bankrupt, because if you do, you lose your cash but not your merchandise, because once you buy a prize, it's yours to keep."

"The prices of the prizes were furnished to the contestants prior to the show and have been rounded off to the nearest dollar. Gift certificates do not include sales tax."

Arguably the most famous retired element. The Shopper's Bazaar pilot used an "Accounting Department": all money earned by the players carried from round to round, but was only "banked" after solving a puzzle; the money was applied to an item she wanted, and once a prize's value was reached her money was applied to the next item, but prizes could only be won by solving a puzzle.

The 1974 pilots introduced the more familiar setup where players could spend their winnings on prizes in a showcase. Probably when the series landed, and definitely by July 15, 1975, the contestants put the showcases in a 1-2-3 order before the show; if that player solved a puzzle, they spent their money at the showcase they put as #1, with subsequent solves by the same player using the second and third platforms respectively. By the All-Star Dream Machine week in early 1976, this was changed to simply have the show order the platforms and basically "tie" them to each of the first three puzzles.

Shopping was unofficially retired from nighttime on October 5, 1987 with the Big Month of Cash, an experimental format change that seamlessly became permanent, while daytime kept it through June 1989.

Contestants could put money "on account" anytime during a shopping round, which allowed the money to carry over to the next round at the risk of being lost to Bankrupt. From at least July 15, 1975 onward, the winnings could also be placed on a gift certificate if a contestant did not have enough money left over to buy another prize; as a result, almost every contestant chose the gift certificate. It is believed that even before this change, any remaining money that the contestant who solved the final puzzle had was placed on a gift certificate.

According to at least one recollection, players who claimed a gift certificate would be guaranteed at least $25 for it, regardless of how little they actually placed on it during the game. If this was the case, it is not known to have been stated on-air.

To ensure that players would have money to spend, there was a $200 house minimum for contestants who solved with less than that amount banked, although at least one game (a nighttime episode in late September 1984) omitted a shopping round because there were no remaining prizes under $200. (It is believed that the house minimum was originally $100; if this was the case, it was increased to $200 by May 20, 1976.)

It should be noted that contestants did not have to spend all of their winnings on prizes, and could choose to put winnings on account without buying anything. One known instance of a contestant immediately placing all winnings on account without buying a prize occurred on January 18, 1978.

Probably the most fondly-remembered part of the shopping rounds is the ceramic Dalmatian, which began to be offered around 1980 and became the show's mascot by March 1987. In the years since, it has become a semi-cultural icon associated with Wheel: the Retro Week "Shopping" wedge was a picture of the Dalmatian, both Pat and Vanna own one (and have displayed them on occasion), it appears occasionally on the show in other ways, the Wheel Watchers Club released an exclusive bobblehead, one is present at the Sony Studios Wheel Hall of Fame (with original pricetag), and it even appeared on the April 12, 2005 episode of Jeopardy! At least on Wheel, as opposed to the manufacturer, the Dalmatian's name is Sheldon.

Throughout Season 30, Sheldon was hidden somewhere on-set in every episode.


Lifespan: October 5, 1992 - June 12, 1998
Original Surprise Wedge

The original wedge.


The second wedge.

A special Wheel prize present throughout the entire game. It was located on the peach $200 between $500 and $700 in Rounds 1 and 2 and on the tan $200 between $500 and $550 in Rounds 3 and up. On October 8, 1992 (Season 10) and September 4, 1995 (Season 13); it was seen on the purple $150 in Round 3. In September 1996, it moved to the yellow $400 between $250 and $500. It was claimed identically to the other Prize wedges, but the prize was not revealed until after the contestant won it.

For its first week, Surprise used a far thinner font similar to Helvetica; both it and the subsequent version used through the end of Season 13 used heavy black text on a pink background. For its final two seasons, the Surprise was changed to its final design: plain black text (in the same font) with each letter outlined in a thin silver holographic film on a sparkly deep pink background.

From Seasons 10-13, the Round 4 prize was placed on the tan $200 if the Surprise was claimed before then; if both the Surprise and Round 2 prize remained, the Round 4 prize was placed on the blue $200.

For unknown reasons, some episodes in Seasons 14-15 used a second Prize in Round 3 in lieu of Surprise. The wedge was also absent during the Season 15 premiere week, taped at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus; as most of the episodes that week ran to only three rounds, a second Prize did not replace it.

In December 1997, the wedge was redone for Happy Holidays Week to include a gift box. When claimed and won, the box was opened to reveal a card that read "I've won (name of prize). Tell me about it, Charlie!" which then segued into the prize description.

According to former prize coordinator Terry Russell, the companies that donated prizes never knew if/when their prize would be selected or won (which would suggest that the prize attached to Surprise changed from day to day and was selected at random). While the wedge stayed around for six years, it "wasn't a big hit" and was replaced at the start of Season 16 by a second Wheel Prize in Round 3.

Your Own ClueEdit

Lifespan: September 1973
A single wedge on the Shopper's Bazaar pilot that activated the rotary phone in front of the contestants. The player who landed on it picked up the phone and received the puzzle's category (Person, Place, or Thing) from announcer Mike Lawrence. If that player landed on Your Own Clue again, Lawrence gave her a more detailed clue (although this never came into play); if another contestant landed on the space for the first time, she started from the first clue.

There are only two known references, albeit indirectly, to Your Own Clue since then: in a 1986 behind-the-scenes report on the daytime show, then-producer Nancy Jones mentions the phone while describing the basic Bazaar format. Much later, the "Call Waiting" stunt on Wheel 2000 consisted of phones that gave clues. Chuck Woolery also mentioned it during a FOX internet chat during the run of Greed, also the only known time he has name-dropped Shopper's Bazaar.

In general, the concept of giving hints to the players became part of several international versions (most notably in Australia and New Zealand), albeit without the phone.

Bonus RoundEdit

The Bonus Round has had several variations over the show's long history.

Shopper's SpecialEdit

Lifespan: September 1973
Used only on the Shopper's Bazaar pilot, the puzzle was the name of the prize the contestant was playing for. The winner was shown all vowels in the puzzle, then had 30 seconds to give one correct consonant and solve the puzzle.

While this particular format was only used in 1973, the concept was eventually recycled into the Prize Puzzle (albeit much less straightforward most of the time).

Hour-Long EpisodesEdit

Lifespan: November 3-7/December 1, 1975 - January 16, 1976

While details on the hour-long format are sketchy, it is believed that three contestants competed in the first half-hour and three more in the second half-hour. The two winners then drew a category from a bowl and played a final round, which included a Prize wedge similar to the current one except that it was put back on the Wheel if lost to Bankrupt. The winner of that round is believed to have played a Bonus Round identical to the Star Bonus rules, below.

Available footage of November 3 shows the Round 3 layout with $1,000 and Free Spin being used for at least Round 1, suggesting that the format was at least slightly different for the Daytime Gigantic Game Gala.

Star BonusEdit

Lifespan: approx. April 3 - June?, 1978

A token which covered a low-value wedge (the orange $100 next to Free Spin in Round 1, the tan $100 in Round 2, and $150 in Round 3) and allowed the player who picked it up to play a special puzzle at the end of the show. It could not be lost to Bankrupt nor forfeited by failing to solve that round's puzzle, and landing on it resulted in a short trumpet fanfare playing.

In the Star Bonus Round, the contestant chose one of four prizes, with the difficulty of the puzzle corresponding to the prize's value (Easy, Medium, Hard, Difficult). The puzzle was shown, and the player chose four consonants and a vowel. After the correct letters were revealed (if any), s/he was given the category and 15 seconds to solve; an onscreen "stopwatch" graphic served as the timer.

There are three known instances of the Star Bonus being played: two Difficults and a Medium. One was played on April 7 by veteran game show contestant Scott Hostetler (see right), who failed to solve PABLO PICASSO (Difficult); the other puzzles were TOSSED GREEN SALAD (Medium) and KNOCK ON WOOD (Difficult), with RSTNE picked for both.

Star Bonus was likely retired for several reasons, the most obvious being that there was no guarantee it would be played: if it was not picked up, it was removed to play Round 4; if it was picked up, the game ended after Round 3 and the episode was heavily edited, most noticeably the contestant interviews. The prizes designated for the Star Bonus were marked by stars, but could be purchased during normal shopping rounds; this allowed come-from-behind wins to be negated...or worse, the token rendered entirely useless due to having no prizes to play for.

The token's duration is uncertain: it is not present on March 15, 1978 or the Armed Forces Week of October 1978 (the existing episodes immediately before and after April 6-7), and one recollection claims the Star Bonus was used for three or four weeks. The only known reference in contemporary media is on a Match Game episode taped in May or June (aired June 26): when host Gene Rayburn began to explain about landing in a "gold star area" on the Star Wheel (which debuted that day), panelist Richard Dawson joked that "Chuck Woolery comes out and punches you in the mouth."

Current Bonus RoundEdit


Lifespan: approx. December 18, 1981 - September 30, 1988
The most familiar Bonus Round has been in place since at least the week of December 14, 1981 (it was called the "Christmas Wish Bonus" that week, so it is highly likely that it was introduced then). Originally, the contestant was provided a blank puzzle and a category, and asked for five consonants and a vowel. S/he then had 15 seconds to solve. Almost all contestants chose some permutation of R, S, T, L, N, and E as those letters are the most common.

As with the Star Bonus, the winner originally played from their spot at the contestant area. The current setup, where the winner stands in front of the Wheel, was introduced sometime between December 28, 1981 and June 18, 1982.

It is believed that the week of December 14, 1981 was a "test run" of sorts – while no Bonus Round was played on the 25th, it would have looked very out-of-place if it had been used the rest of that week. Most authors cite the 28th (Pat's first show) as its debut, which is untrue in the general sense but almost certainly the date it became a permanent fixture.

Originally, contestants could pick any prize marked with a gold star to play for in the Bonus Round, which sometimes resulted in playing for a fairly inexpensive item such as a piece of furniture. With the nighttime change to play-for-cash in October 1987, that Bonus Round began offering five different prizes: $25,000 cash, a car, and three other prizes that changed each week. The vast majority of contestants chose either the cash or a car.

By about 1985, nearly every contestant began calling some permutation of RSTLNE, which tended to reveal a good portion of the puzzle more often than not.


Debuted: October 3, 1988
The current rules were introduced on both versions: the player is given RSTLNE, then asked for three more consonants and a vowel (plus a fourth consonant if s/he has a Wild Card). The time limit was reduced to 10 seconds, and the puzzles were made slightly harder.

It is extremely rare for RSTLNE to reveal half or more of the answer, and many puzzles between 1991 and 2001 used none of those letters. Starting in Season 7, bonus puzzles also became much shorter: under the original rules and the majority of Season 6, bonus puzzles were often 15-20 letters long (and in some cases, were even the longest puzzles of the episode), while the vast majority from 1989 onward were typically between 4-10 letters (including several that were only 3 and, sometime during Season 11, the 2-letter AX). The practice of very short bonus puzzles was gradually reversed around 2004-05.

In Season 6, the show tried two experimental "Wipe Out" Weeks (October 24-28 and February 13-17), where winning the game allowed the contestant to return the next day, but also eliminated the bonus prize that they played for if it was won. To indicate this, red "WO" letters were placed on each prize that was won.

W-H-E-E-L EnvelopesEdit

Lifespan: September 4, 1989 - October 19, 2001

The envelopes in 1990...

1992-97 W-H-E-E-L Envelopes

the mid-90s...

First S15 W-H-E-E-L Prop

...and September 1997.

The prize selection was changed at the beginning of Season 7 to a random draw from five envelopes spelling out W-H-E-E-L, and any prize that was won was taken out of rotation for the rest of the week. On Fridays, if only one envelope remained, Pat generally said what the remaining prize was but still had the contestant pull out the envelope. Regardless of outcome, Pat always revealed the prize after the round, except on the envelopes' first day.

While daytime added a $5,000 cash prize on Bob Goen's debut (July 17, 1989), players were still allowed to choose their prize; interestingly, choosing the cash or car was somewhat less common than it had been on nighttime. Wheel 2000 used just two envelopes (A-B), with the prize only revealed if it was won.

While the envelopes have changed very little over the years, the prop they were put in had seven distinct appearances:

  • Originally, the W-H-E-E-L envelopes were spelled out on five green stars, with the letters in silver at the end of thin metal poles, all on a small 12-wedge Wheel-shaped platform like the one seen here.
  • Sometime between September 11, 1990 and January 1991, a large gold ring was added behind the poles.
  • For the weeks of September 7 and 14, 1992, the 12-wedge Wheel platform switched to this.
  • The prop was overhauled on September 21, 1992 to display the letters (now red, with lights) in a zig-zag on a diamond-esque lighted frame, with a black base underneath. When an envelope was selected, a chime rang as the chosen letter's light turned off (a high-pitched ding at Television City, a lower-pitched ding on road shows), although the high-pitched ding was not used for the first eight weeks of Season 10 and discarded completely at the beginning of Season 13. The lights flashed if the puzzle was solved.
  • For the Arizona episodes of Season 14 (February 10-21, 1997), the prop was redone in turquoise and red with a pattern resembling a Navajo weaving.
  • The prop was then overhauled on February 24 to use green letters and gold rectangular lights similar to that of the new touch-based puzzle board.
  • When Season 15 began on September 1, the prop was slightly altered to put the W-H-E-E-L lights in a horizontal line.
  • Just two weeks later (September 15), all lights except the W-H-E-E-L ones were removed from the prop, as were the green center and black base. The letters now sat on a transparent square base with an odd design on the front.

For several weeks during Season 14, the prize envelopes' insides were glittery green instead of their usual gold design. In addition, there was a separate battery-operated $25,000 envelope with flashing numbers, which Vanna would hold up in promotion of that prize. For a brief period around Season 17, the $25,000 envelope had the show's logo on the inside of the top flap; this was reverted sometime in Season 18.

Beginning in September 1998, the $25,000 envelope was kept in play even if won. On September 3, 2001 (the first show of Season 19), the prize selection was changed to three different cars and two $25,000 prizes, all of which remained in play all week; this was also the point at which the Bonus Round generally stopped offering anything other than cash or cars. Previously, contestants could win gold-and-silver packages, jewelry, annuities, trips, boats, trailers, motorhomes, or other esoteric prizes.

The most expensive Bonus Round prize in the W-H-E-E-L era was a custom-built Shelby Cobra worth over $105,000, won by Derek Rose on a Las Vegas episode in February 1998.

Bonus WheelEdit

Debuted: October 22, 2001
First Bonus Wheel

The original Bonus Wheel.

Despite the three-car/two-$25,000 setup being touted as a new change "for the season", the five-envelope format was replaced on the eighth week of Season 19 with a 24-envelope Bonus Wheel. Other than a single $100,000 envelope, the prize distribution has changed over time:

  • Originally, there were 11 $25,000 envelopes and 12 car envelopes, whose distribution varied depending on whether a week offered two or three cars.
  • In February 2002, additional cash amounts (one each from $30,000-$50,000 in $5,000 increments) were added for Big Money Week, a configuration made permanent that September.
  • For the NASCAR Week of April 22, 2002, a lifetime supply of gasoline was added.
  • Starting with a special week of episodes aired in July 2009 and running through November 27, 2009, the Bonus Round temporarily stopped offering cars. The week of December 21, 2009 also did not use cars due to being taped out of order. During this period, the car envelopes were likely replaced with additional $25,000 envelopes.
  • With the introduction of the Million-Dollar Wedge in Season 26, the $100,000 envelope is replaced with a $1,000,000 one if the contestant takes the wedge to the Bonus Round. Said envelope originally had a design identical to the graphic on the wedge, but on February 23, 2009 it became "ONE MILLION" (with the latter word in much larger letters) in plain black text.
  • At the beginning of Season 28, all remaining $25,000 envelopes were increased to $30,000 and cars began to include a $5,000 bonus.
  • In March 2012, additional cash amounts of $65,000, $75,000, and $85,000 were added for Big Money Week, although none of them were landed on and the envelopes were never shown on-air.
  • From November 25, 2013 through the end of Season 31, the cash awarded with cars was dropped to $3,000.
  • Starting in Season 32, $30,000 and $35,000 were both retired; the lowest value is now the current season number multiplied by $1,000. At the same time, the cash awarded with cars was removed entirely.

As with the W-H-E-E-L envelopes, Pat always reveals the contents after the round regardless of outcome, although he forgot to do so on a March 2003 episode. For the first few weeks, he also revealed the location of the $100,000 envelope. Likewise, since the introduction of the $1,000,000 prize, Pat always reveals its location, again barring a January 2009 episode where he forgot.

Like the W-H-E-E-L envelope prop, the Bonus Wheel has had several different appearances:

Seasons 26-30.


The current Bonus Wheel.

  • Originally, it spelled out "WIN $100,000 CASH BONUS" in red with colored spaces between the words (blue after "WIN", orange after "$100,000", green after "CASH", red after "BONUS") and the traditional logo (with colors on its "wedges") on the center, which itself did not spin.
  • On October 29, a large domed light replaced the logo and the red wedge became purple. Despite this, the original version appeared a few more times during the season due to episodes being taped out of order
  • At the beginning of Season 21, the lettering was changed to blue. The solid-color wedge after "$100,000" became green, the one after "CASH" became purple, and the one after "BONUS" became pink.
  • The prop became neon at the beginning of Season 22, with the solid-color wedges replaced by stars (one after "WIN", two after "$100,000", three after "CASH", four after "BONUS").
  • In September 2008, the words changed to "AMERICA'S★GAME★★SPIN&WIN★★★" to reflect the Million-Dollar Wedge, and neon rings were added to the base.
  • At the beginning of Season 30, the rings on the base began to flash as the Bonus Wheel was spun.
  • At the start of Season 31, the Bonus Wheel became a darker blue and purple with yellow characters, and the three-star space was changed to have its stars form a triangle instead of a horizontal line. In addition, the selected envelope now has its wedge turn light blue as the envelope is pulled. On November 5 and 7 only, the lighting was altered so that the wedges flashed red, white, and blue when the Wheel was spun. During the Secret Santa Sweepstakes (November 11-27), it inconsistently flashed red and green.

Starting in Season 23, the Bonus Wheel remains onstage for the final segment; prior to this, it (like the W-H-E-E-L props before it) was taken offstage at the final break.

Despite a timer being present in the studio, it was very rarely shown on-camera and never appeared during the Bonus Round itself. A visual timer was added to the contestant window at the beginning of Season 30.

The $100,000 and $1,000,000 envelopes both have the two-row Wheel of Fortune logo on the upper flap, while the other envelopes use the traditional logo.

While it has never been stated on-air, the Bonus Wheel must make at least one complete revolution; spins that do not are edited out.

Unlike the old envelope ding, the current chime is in fact the beginning of the cue that plays immediately after the envelope is pulled out. The old ding is still used after each episode's production slate is read, a practice dating back to at least January 1997.

Retro Bonus RoundEdit

Starting in Season 30, Wheel began airing a clip from a previous episode's Bonus Round after Round 2, presented in a way very similar to the Preview Puzzle: while the contestant's choices are revealed, there is a voiceover of Vanna saying "Can you solve this puzzle from [year]? The category is [category]. We'll give you the answer when we come back, right after this." A short promo is then shown, after which the answer is revealed with a voiceover. The voiceover during the reveal was originally "Here's the correct puzzle solution. Did you solve it?"; partway through the season, "Did you solve it?" was changed to "Watch tomorrow night for another classic puzzle." for Monday-Thursday episodes. If the puzzle was solved quickly in its original airing, the footage is typically slowed down or paused to allow time for viewers to study the puzzle.

Several clips have been from 1983, 1984 (twice), 1988 (three times), and 1989 (one from Season 6, the other from Season 7 after the contestant's letter choices became black). One particularly notable instance of this was on February 20, 2013, where the early-1989 puzzle THE HIMALAYAS was quickly discovered to be from Rolf Benirschke's debut.

These are not used on sponsored weeks or road shows. Starting in Season 31, they were reduced to Tuesdays and Thursdays only (with Tuesdays also disappearing for the first week of Season 32). In addition, Vanna's voiceover for the reveal changed again to "Keep watching Wheel for more classic puzzles."

The Retro Bonus Round is also shown in real-time to studio audiences. Occasionally, it is edited from the aired episode for time constraints.

On Game Show Network airings, this feature is edited out in most episodes. Some episodes leave the partial puzzle intact, but omit the solution.

Wheel 2000Edit

Other than Bankrupt and Lose A Turn (renamed The Creature and Loser respectively), Wheel 2000 used several unique elements.

Double UpEdit


A purple wedge with green font which allowed the contestant to try for double the wedge's value, or 1,000 points per correct consonant, by correctly answering a question posed by host David Sidoni. At least two questions were multiple-choice from three answers. One question, however, had four, with the fourth choice being all of the other three choices.

Strangely, several episodes occasionally had shots of a regular 500 in place of Double Up.

Physical GamesEdit

Wheel 2000 utilized various stunts over its run, which were played if a contestant landed on one of the three red, double-width 250-point spaces. According to one recollection, there were only two episodes where a physical game was not played.

During each game, a randomizer shuffling unused letters awarded up to three depending on how many times a player accomplished the game's goal. All games gave the player 60 seconds unless otherwise noted.

  • Alientoss: The contestant faced a small 12-square board and threw stuffed aliens at the numbers to try and match geometric shapes (triangle, circle, square, etc.), with a letter earned for each shape matched. Before the game started, Sidoni demonstrated by having a staff member behind the board (known as the "Wacky Staff") turn over a panel, thus giving the player a free hint.
    • The Bravo Card tour used four pairs on a nine-square board (possibly according to a theme, such as Halloween with a trick-or-treat bag, pumpkin, bat, and skeleton) with the remaining space taken by Bravo, which acted as a wild card. As the player had fewer squares to face, no free hints were given and s/he had only 45 seconds instead of 60. Since the Bravo Card tour did not use a randomizer, the player was allowed to choose any letter s/he wished. Consonants were worth the usual 250 per occurrence, while vowels did not award or cost anything. It is presumed that if none of the player's choices were in the puzzle, s/he lost their turn. Unlike on the show, the Alientoss wedge was not removed on the Bravo Card tour's layout. If it was landed on later during the same round, Sidoni announced it was a regular 250-point space (like Pat would do in the Mystery Round when the unused Mystery Wedge was landed on).
  • Call Waiting: Essentially a minigame-style revisit of Your Own Clue, the player stood behind a semicircular table with five phones on top; after picking one up and saying "Who's calling?", s/he had to determine the famous person from the clues they gave. The trick was that all five phones were ringing at nearly the same time, and only rang four times each.
  • Chutes and Letters: The player stood over a 12-wedge wheel (four each of red, yellow, and blue) and had to correctly guess where a ball (rolled by them down a chute) would land. While the player began with only 15 seconds, s/he could add 15, 30, or 45 more by answering three true or false questions posed by David.
  • Cube Roll: The player used a catapult to launch pairs of large colored dice onto a table, trying to match a symbol. After every roll, David pulled a nearby handle to open the table and remove the cubes from the play field.
  • Feed the Raptor: The player used a large "spoon" (net) to dig into a "swamp" (what appears to have been packing peanuts) to find meat or vegetables (depending on David's instructions) and get them into the mouth of a large raptor head surrounded by foliage. While the contestant began with 45 seconds, s/he could add 15 more by answering a multiple-choice dinosaur question posed by David.
  • Letter Launch: The player stood by a catapult and tried to launch UFOs (placed on the catapult by David) into one of four "pods" extending from a giant rotating cog. While the contestant began with 30 seconds, s/he could add 15 or 30 more by answering two true-or-false questions posed by David.
  • Match It: The player had four colored helmets and three humanoid aliens (the latter's colors revealed to the audience), and had to match the proper helmet to each alien. Upon placing the helmets, the player raced to a podium which lit up with 0-3 lights after pressing a button on top of it, denoting how many were correctly placed. (Unlike the other games, all three letters were awarded upon winning; it is assumed that if the player ran out of time, the number of correct placements on the last attempt determined how many letters were earned.)
  • Monster Heads: The player wore rubber gloves, goggles, and an apron; s/he had to reach into a vat of green "slime" (green-colored applesauce) and pick out pieces of heads of several famous people, living or dead. The contestant then had to put the head pieces together like a puzzle (the pieces were color-coded) to win a letter.
  • Remote Rally: The player had 75 seconds to drive an R/C Mazda Miata along a large maze-like course with five lines. While the first was the starting point, crossing the second line awarded one letter; the third line awarded a Wheel 2000 hat, the fourth gave a second letter, and crossing the finish line awarded the third letter. The catch was that shortly after the hat's line was a small pit that the player had to loop around. If the car landed in the pit, David took the car out of the pit and placed it back behind the hat's line.
  • Smell-O-Letter: The contestant, wearing a haz-mat helmet with a nozzle, had to smell up to four items (shown to the home audience) and try to name them. The fourth item was usually one that gave an unpleasant smell, such as gym socks.
  • Wash N' Wear Words: The player put on a choice of hats, shirts, shorts, and shoes all showing a letter, and had to guess the four-letter word spelled out by that clothing by running to a podium (the same one used in Match It) and shouting the word while pressing the button. The player then replaced the hat with another one to make a rhyming word and again until a third valid word was buzzed in correctly (while at least one playing had a profanity as a possible choice, it was not used or possibly even noticed). The buzzer used in this game was also used on Zooventure.

After the stunt, the contestant was given the option to use the letters s/he earned (if any) or spin again and choose a different letter. If the player chose to use the letters, any appearances awarded 250 points each. If the player chose to use the letters and none were in the puzzle, or if no letters were earned from the stunt, that player's turn ended. All three double-width wedges offered 250 points per correct letter for the rest of the game, with the exception of at least one episode where a new physical game was put on the Wheel at the beginning of the next round.

Prize BoxEdit



Another purple wedge with green font, this one had a large green box facing toward the contestant with the Wheel of Fortune 2000 logo on top. If the player called a correct letter, s/he got 100 points per consonant and opened the box to get the small prize inside, such as a Tiger or Nintendo Game Boy Pocket. The prize was kept regardless of the game's outcome, and a new prize was added for each round (presumably only if the previous one was won); it was essentially Surprise, which itself used a similar method of reveal for Happy Holidays Week in December 1997, mixed with the 1991 daytime prize structure.

The Prize Box was attached to its wedge and kept in place by way of a small black Velcro strip. While there are no known instances of anyone landing on the wedge after a Prize Box was claimed, it was most likely treated as a regular 100-point space.

Much later, on December 25, 1998, a Prize wedge had a box on top of it (most likely the aforementioned Surprise wedge) which Pat opened; inside was a CD jewel case with his picture on it, which he gave to the winning contestant before the Bonus Round. The fact that such a "cheap" item was inside may make it a direct reference to the low-value Prize Box items on Wheel 2000, which had left CBS' schedule about three months earlier.



"...which you can log on to anytime you want to."

A blue wedge named after the website that, if landed on, resulted in Cyber Lucy reading the name and hometown of a viewer who had registered on the site. If the contestant called a correct letter, the home viewer got a Wheel 2000 T-shirt and hat while the studio player got 750 points per consonant. A new viewer was picked each time the space was hit, regardless of whether the previous viewer won.

A promotional picture of Sidoni published around the show's debut has a regular 750 in its place, heavily suggesting it was not present in the pilots. The 750 is in its normal position rather than the one it had when the series began taping (next to the top value).

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